“When the devil grows old he turns hermit”
Ludovico Ariosto was born on this day in Reggio Emilia, Italy, in 1474. Today is the 538th anniversary of his birth.
Ariosto was the eldest of 10 children born to an affluent family. His father, Count Niccolo Ariosto, was the commander of the citadel, and Ludovico was supposed to follow in the his footsteps. He studied law, languages and literature. He had a great love of poetry and wanted to become a writer, but he was obliged to support his family. When his father died, in 1500, he took over the family estate. In 1503 he began to work for Cardinal Ippolito D’Este who acted as Ariosto’s patron for a few years. Later he worked for the Cardinal’s brother, Alfonso I, Duke of Ferrara. In 1522 he was sent to wilderness of Garfagnana, Ferrara as governor. He did not take to the remote location of the bandits.
Ariosto snuck time to write some comedies, prose and poetry when his duties permitted. His play Cassaria was staged in 1508 and I Suppositi followed in 1509. (It was translated into English and was the inspiration for parts of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.) He wrote 5 comedies and 7 satires.
His greatest work, indeed ” the most celebrated narrative poem of the Italian high Renaissance” [Books and Writers] was Orlando Furioso. It was first published in 1516 at a length of 40 cantos. The epic poem was revised and added to several times with the final version, at 46 cantos, appearing in 1532. An additional 5 cantos , the Cinque canti were published by his son Virgino after the poet’s death.
The plot revolves around the conflict of the Christian versus the Moor, the war between Charles, the Holy Roman Emperor, and Agramante, King of North Africa, and Marsilio, King of Spain. With the defeat and death of Agramante, the conflict ends, and Marsilio returns to Spain. [Books and Writers]
The piece was so popular that, rumor has it, when the last revision came out Queen Elizabeth banned the English translator of the work from Court until he completed his task so he wouldn’t be distracted. Artist, composers and other writers have used characters from Orlando Furioso as their muse. Portrait of a Gentleman by Titian is one such work. His A Man with a Quilted Sleeve is believed to be Ludovico.